Government accepts ‘moral case’ for compensation
Written by Jessica Bomford, December 15, 2022
The government has accepted the moral case for compensation but still has ‘significant work to do’ to ensure it is ready to make payments when the Infected Blood Inquiry makes its final report, a minister said today.
In a statement to MPs, Paymaster General Jeremy Quin, the minister with responsibility for the inquiry, said that steps were being taken within government to prepare for compensation, based on the report it commissioned from Sir Robert Francis KC. He said he understood that ‘time was of the essence’ and that more needed to be done to build trust and confidence in the process from the community.
He said that although the government was still working through Sir Robert’s report, it did accept his recommendation that there was a ‘moral case for the payment of compensation’.
Progress on developing a compensation framework will be overseen by a cross-departmental group of senior civil servants, chaired by the Cabinet Office’s Second Permanent Secretary Sue Gray. Sir Robert will provide ‘continued input’ in an independent capacity.
Mr Quin said the ‘sheer complexity’ of Sir Robert’s report, which was published in June 2022, meant that the government would not publish a response to it before the end of the inquiry, despite promising to do so. Dame Nia Griffith MP told him there was ‘tangible disappointment’ that the government would not honour its pledge.
Mr Quin told MPs that since becoming the Paymaster General he had developed a greater appreciation of the ‘scale and gravity’ of the contaminated blood scandal and also acknowledged the ‘stigma and trauma’ of those infected and affected.
He said the aim was to use Sir Robert’s report to develop a payment system which is ‘user friendly, supportive and as free from stress as possible’ and emphasised that government officials were working to ensure payments were exempt from tax and disregarded in relation to benefits. He also said he hoped to personally meet people infected and affected as part of the process. Although he promised to update MPs, Mr Quin said he would not commit to a timetable for the process.
Clive Smith, Chair of the Haemophilia Society, said: “More than 30 years after government told victims that they would have to go to court to secure compensation, government has today acknowledged the moral case for compensation; a case made at the time by the Haemophilia Society. There still appears to be an enormous amount of work to do to prepare a workable compensation framework ready to implement when Sir Brian makes his final report next year. We need more transparency from the government as it works through this process and we would urge government to meet with campaign groups as a matter of urgency. Together we can ensure that all those infected and affected by contaminated blood products receive full and fair compensation as soon as possible.’